The story goes that during Reverend Martin Luther King’s famous speech at the March at Washington on August 28, 1963, the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted to Rev. King, “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” at which point King set aside his prepared notes to improvise the famous, “I have a dream…” section of his speech. King’s soaring oratory still gives a listener goosebumps.
But make sure when you call—or send your fax—and to your local legislators and members of congress, or to the Supreme Court, that you take a moment to tell them about YOUR DREAM. Tell them about your values, your goals and your wishes for your community and for the nation.
The standard formula for advocating is along the lines of:
“Include specific information about the bill or program about which you’re writing. Details about personal or local impact are very effective. Always be courteous, and be very clear about what action you’d like your legislator to take.”
Don’t Hold Back
If you don’t feel confident about a specific piece of legislation, don’t let that hold you back. It is important to share your story—your dream—so that elected officials know this. Ask their office how they are helping to make your dreams come true. Ask them to suggest legislation that you should consider and lend your support to.
An Example: HR 622
Take for example HR 622, a proposed House Bill that would take away law enforcement powers from officers of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service and transfer these to local sheriffs or agencies. (This bill is favored by those who seek to remove the power of the federal government in the Western US and follows on the heels of recent armed stand-offs that have plagued American high desert and range lands. The bill is problematic to law enforcement, hunters, and outdoor advocates.)
HR 622 is a major change to federal law. How might this affect the dreams that you have for your life?
You might say, “Dear Congressperson, Re. HR 622, ….”
“…. as a parent, my dream is to be able to share experiences of the great outdoors with my children throughout our lives. It is important for me to feel safe when traveling in remote rural areas.
“… as a woman, my dream to become an empowered (hiker, hunter, climber, fisher) and it is important to know that my rights and safety are being protected by officials trained to national standards.
“… as a person of color, my dream to to take part in the American Dream and its important for me to know that my right to engage in outdoor recreation on federal lands is being protected by the same standards, in every state and in every region.”
Practical Reasons for Sharing Your Dreams
Sharing your dreams with elected officials is not just wishful thinking. As a I wrote in my post about coping with the election, it is important to remind yourself of your values and to be able to describe, in your own words, what it means for you to be a “citizen.” Also, reasonable people will disagree on policy based on their beliefs, ideologies, and their preferred strategies. The most important thing is to try to work together to achieve shared dreams. A certain piece of legislation can serve your goals without necessarily being your preferred approach. Talking about your dreams and respecting others’ dreams helps to tear down the ideological barriers that are dividing the United States and poisoning the democratic process. The most important question for your legislators is: How can we work together to make our various dreams come true?
Do good things! — Dr. Thomas Doherty